Games:EDU Jonathan Blow

31 07 2008

Jonathan Blow gave the closing keynote for us at Games:EDU on Tuesday. The most interesting point he raised for me was conflict between dynamical meaning and narrative.

Dynamical meaning is the meaning generated by the game rules themselves. The way the game encourages you to play sows values and motives in you as a player, automatically generating meaning around game elements. This can often conflict with story.

One of the examples he gave is the character Kate in Grand Theft Auto IV. Unlike many of the characters, she gives the player no kind of perks or bonuses, so the player is unlikely to care about her more than nearly any of the other characters. However, the story calls for Nico Bellic to care about her a lot, creating a massive dissonance between the feelings of the player and the protagonist.

Another example: Saving Little Sisters in Bioshock grants you less Adam than harvesting them, however, because it’s a game the designers felt the need to balance both choices. Overall, the choice of whether to exploit or assist has little effect on the situation the player ends up in. Many grokked this evenness after a little experimentation, and realised that it negated the narrative importance of choosing to save versus harvest, rendering the drama built up around it meaningless.

Dynamical meaning often seems to trump narrative due to its influence on player actions, Jonathan contended that the dynamical and narrative meaning can be harmonised, but often aren’t.

We’ll be posting more from Games:EDU in the coming week.

(Image of Jonathan Blow by me)

Microsoft to give developers 70% of revenues

29 07 2008

At a Games Edu today, Microsoft’s Albert Ho said it will share with amateur game developers up to 70 percent of the gross revenue generated by games they sell online through the company’s upcoming Xbox Live Community Games section.  This is more than XBLA, and more than standard dev contracts.

When the system launches later this year, people who develop games through Microsoft’s XNA Creators Club ($99 annual subscription) will be able to sell them on the Xbox Live Marketplace, after going through a process of peer review.

Microsoft says it will take an additional slice of revenue — an extra 10 percent to 30 percent — from games featured at the front of the Community Games store. The company calls it a marketing charge. The idea, according to Microsoft officials, is that the choice placement will result in a higher volume of sales that will more than make up for the extra cut taken by the company.

In terms of pricing, game developers will be able to choose among three levels for their games — 200, 400 or 800 Microsoft points. (That translates into $2.50, $5 and $10.) Games also will be available for free trial.

The initiative is meant to open a new distribution channel for small game developers and broaden the library of games available for download on Xbox Live beyond the more highly produced games distributed through Xbox Live Arcade.

KZero: Virtual Pursuits Breakdown

25 07 2008

KZero have an excellent visualisation of different types of MMO and what age groups play them. There are many there I hadn’t heard of, all neatly categorised. Follow this link for a full size version, and this one for a post by them breaking it down.

(via the infringalicious Wonderland 🙂 Note to KZero – people copying your stuff on the web is a good thing when they point back to you).

The End of “Gamers”

22 07 2008

Ian Bogost has an article up on the newly relaunched EDGE Online (replacement for Next-Gen), talking about ideas of who gamers and what games are. He’s particularly cogent near the end:

When we acknowledge videogames as a medium, the notion of a monolithic games industry, which creates a few kinds of games for a few kinds of players, stops making any sense. As does the idea of a demographic category called “gamers” who are the ones who play these games.

It’s taking some people a very long time to comprehend just how much the industry is fragmenting and expanding; I suppose old memes die hard, and we’re going to need a lot of speech like that above before a lot of people get it. I speak to some very progressive developers nowadays who are convinced that the AAA, boxed product, two week sales window is the road to extinction, and there’s a good chance they’re right. Of course, the people who play those games will still want that kind of content, but it seems like new forms of production and distribution will eventually trump all of the old school studios.

I got stuck into the comments there, and commenters over there seem okay so far too. Here’s hoping the standards stay up 🙂

(CC image by Steve Rhodes)

E3: Small

21 07 2008

E3 has now passed, and seemed surprisingly uneventful even with vastly reduced numbers of people.

Probably the most interesting big announcement I saw out of it and haven’t blogged here yet is Sony’s PSN video rental service. It’s been rumoured (and obvious) for a while that Microsoft were likely to partner with Netflix to offer video through the 360, and this was announced, but SCE seem to have surprised everyone… even though they’re part of a huge media corporation with access to massive amounts of video content.

Pretty much all of the industry comment I’ve seen on E3 this year has been “I’m glad I’m not going”, and in the wake of the event, has become really quite savage. The newly relaunched EDGE Online has a couple of quotes:

“I hate E3 like this,” said EA CEO John Riccitiello. “Either we need to go back to the old E3, or we’ll have to have our own private events.”

Laurent Detoc, president of Ubisoft North America, was equally critical. “E3 this year is terrible. The world used to come to E3. Now it’s like a pipe-fitters show in the basement.”


(CC Image by Zoethustra)

Brighton, July 29th – 31st

18 07 2008

We’re going down to Brighton soon to run Games:EDU, stage Polygons #12, and attend the Develop Conference.

We’ll be catching up with a lot of people we already know, but if you’re going to Develop too and would like to arrange a meeting with for any reason, do get in touch. Best way is to email david (dot) hayward (at) pixel-lab (dot) co (dot) uk

We’ll be there from the 28th to the 31st and we look forward to seeing you all there. Being based in the Midlands, we’re also pining to see the sea again, though unfortunately it looks like there will be no time at all for deck chairs.

(CC image by smileham)

Shock and Awe

18 07 2008

Great quote today from Ben Feder:

technology is at a point where developers don’t have to shock the audience to amaze the audience

(CC image by CarbonNYC)